** Vicki Stone, whose teenage daughter died in a car crash, is campaigning for P (probation) plates to be made compulsory for new drivers. The government has a consultation document on this and Vicki urges everyone to write to their MP in support. Death rates have come tumbling down in every country which has introduced the plates.
by Pat Franklin
As the parent of a learner driver, I have become an enthusiastic supporter of Learn and Live, a group which is trying to bring in P-plates for new drivers.
The P stands for probation and if the government can be persuaded, it will become compulsory for all new drivers to display a P-plate for two years. Some new drivers are already using the green P-plates voluntarily and they can be bought at Halfords.
Research has shown that the countries which have brought in P-plates with a "graduated driving licence" have drastically cut the death and injury rates for crashes involving new drivers. The plates are a help to police and are a constant reminder to the new driver that he or she is still inexperienced and needs to drive with caution. They also flag up an alert in the minds of other motorists to take care.
In Britain 38,800 people are killed or injured each year in accidents involving at least one driver with less than two years' experience. Nearly 5,000 of these are deaths or serious injuries.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some American states have P or N (novice) plates as well as graduated driving licences and wherever they are introduced, the death rate falls.
The pressure group Learn and Live was started by Geoff and Vicki Stone after their 17-year-old daughter was killed in a crash involving a learner driver and a newly qualified supervising driver.
Due to pressure from their group the law was changed and now under the New Drivers' Act, new drivers are not allowed to supervise learners.
A government consultation document is now out inviting people to send in their views on P-plates. People can write to their MPs at the House of Commons to express support.
The pressure group also wants a graduated licence, with new drivers obliged to get some supervision for motorway driving before being allowed on the M-ways.
Vicki Stone cites one case of a young girl who had just got her licence, drove on to the motorway and did not know how to use the exits. Her body was strewn along several lanes and her family will live with the tragedy forever.
Had she gone on a Driver-Plus course after getting her licence, she would probably be alive today.
Vicki also pointed out that new drivers have poor awareness of hazards, and her group has fully supported the Hazard Perception Test which all new drivers will soon have to take.
You can practise dealing with hazards on the Driving Standards Agency video What If? which costs £12.99 at bookstores. The video is highly recommended by Vicki's group and will prepare people for the new test as well as helping new (and old!) drivers sharpen their driving hazard reactions.
Statistics show that a new driver takes seconds longer than an experienced driver to react to a hazard - for example, a child suddenly stepping out in front of your car. The figures also show that you can improve reaction time by training.
The Learn and Live pressure group is on (tel/fax) 01384 292571 and the website is www.learnandlive.org.uk
You can email the group on: firstname.lastname@example.org